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Scott Mansch: There's another Winter preparing to make an imprint on college basketball

When Trevor Winter was a 7-foot basketball star at Slayton High and later a scholarship player for the Minnesota Gophers, he knew his place. “I never left the lane,” he says. “Back then they didn’t teach big guys how to dribble or how to shoot from past 15 feet. Most of my work was in the paint.” These days, Trevor’s son Nolan is a 6-9 basketball star at Lakeville North in the Twin Cities who plays the game a little differently than his father.

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When Trevor Winter was a 7-foot basketball star at Slayton High and later a scholarship player for the Minnesota Gophers , he knew his place.

“I never left the lane,” he says. “Back then they didn’t teach big guys how to dribble or how to shoot from past 15 feet. Most of my work was in the paint.”

These days, Trevor’s son Nolan is a 6-9 basketball star at Lakeville North in the Twin Cities who plays the game a little differently than his father.

“Nolan’s a 3-point shooter, what you would call a stretch-4,” Trevor says. “He’s got great feet, great hands and footwork, more of that new-age, Euro-style where you stretch the court, shoot 3s and guard all three positions (3, 4 and 5).”

But just like his father back in the day, Nolan has received abundant attention from NCAA Division I basketball recruiters.

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“In this world there’s a lot of things coming back full circle for me,” Trevor says.

Thirty years ago this month, Trevor made headlines throughout our region and beyond when he accepted a basketball scholarship from coach Clem Haskins and the Minnesota Gophers .

That winter, Trevor and his Slayton High teammates played before packed gymnasiums and generated considerable hoop hysteria in Murray County. Trevor went on to a fine career with the Gophers, culminating in a Final Four appearance in 1997, and played professionally for a time before settling in his wife’s hometown of Lakeville.

And now the Winter name is making basketball news again.

Trevor’s Slayton High Class in 1992 is regarded as one of the most memorable groups of Wildcat athletes. The class included fine all-around sports standouts such as Jeff Schaap, Stuart Lang and Nate Graphenteen. Also a Slayton senior that year was baseball superstar Ryan Beers, who like Trevor was recruited to the University of Minnesota.

The Winter-led basketball team narrowly missed earning a state tournament berth. But Trevor and Beers were teammates on a Slayton baseball team that placed third in Minnesota’s two-class state baseball tournament in the spring of 1992.

Trevor, whose strike zone was not exactly small, owned excellent hand-eye coordination and his 7-foot frame provided a nice target at first base. In addition, he struck out only once the entire season.

“I was OK,” Trevor laughs. “I was a serviceable first baseman who batted near the bottom of the lineup. We had a good team and I enjoyed it.”

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Those Slayton High baseball clubs were coached by Tarry Boelter, a former star infielder for the Gophers.

“We were lucky to have coach Boelter,” Trevor says. “He was probably the biggest influence on me, athletically and competitively. Without him I probably would not have ended up at the University of Minnesota. He did a lot of work just to get me noticed by them in the first place.”

Once Trevor received a basketball offer from Gopher coach Haskins, it was a done deal.

“It was never really a debate,” Trevor says. “I knew I wanted to play Division I basketball, I knew I wanted to stay close to home, and growing up a Gopher fan it was an easy decision for me.”

That’s not to say it will be so cut and dried for Nolan. The junior, who averaged double digits as a Lakeville North sophomore and flourished last summer in the highly regarded Howard Pulley AAU program, currently holds full-ride offers from Wisconsin, Stanford and Oregon State -- in addition to the Gophers. Nolan and his family planned to visit the University of Iowa campus last weekend.

Any idea when Nolan will make up his mind and commit?

“No,” Trevor chuckles. “He’s a 16-year-old kid who’s still trying to figure out how to do his hair in the morning and get through high school. We haven’t really talked about that a whole lot yet. He understands he’ll have to make a decision here in the next 12 months, but right now he’s focusing on school and getting through this season.”

It has to be a special feeling, and a bit of deja vu, for Trevor and the recruiting process.

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“It’s not just me,” he says. “My wife played volleyball at the University of Minnesota.”

Trevor’s wife, Heidi (Olhausen), has ties to southwest Minnesota as well. She was born in Worthington and her father was a teacher in Lakefield and Tracy for a time.

Heidi graduated from Lakeville High and had offers from LSU and Arizona in addition to the Gophers .

“Between the two of us, we’ve been through all this before,” Trevor says. “We’re doing our best to help Nolan navigate through this. He’s got a lot to digest in the next 12 months.”

Trevor’s late father, Keith, a 1964 Worthington High graduate who played baseball for the Trojans and for years served the Slayton area as an optometrist, president of the Optimist Club, and primary planner of the town’s softball complex, died at age 63 in 2010. Trevor’s mother, Connie, still lives in Slayton.

The Winter family has other Worthington connections, including the Gerber family that included star WHS athletes Todd and Jay.

Trevor’s paternal grandparents, George and Sissy Winter, lived in Worthington for more than 60 years. “Sissy loved basketball,” Trevor says. “She would have been Nolan’s biggest fan.”

And what would Dr. Keith Winter think of his grandson’s budding basketball career?

“He was always kind of soft-spoken,” Trevor says. “But I’m sure he would be proud. And he would want Nolan to make the right decision.”

Trevor believes he certainly did.

“We had a few up and down seasons early in my Gopher career but we finished on a high note,” Trevor says. “No regrets to this day about going there.”

He’s also thankful for his southwest Minnesota roots.

“I have a special place in my heart for Slayton and I always will,” Trevor says.

Trevor and Heidi both loved their time with the Gophers and have great memories of their time at the University. Dave Thorson, an assistant to head coach Ben Johnson at Minnesota, 30 years ago worked for Haskins and recruited Trevor.

Now Thorson, who Trevor has maintained a friendship with for the past three decades, is recruiting another Winter to Dinkytown.

“Like I said, a lot of things are coming back full circle,” Trevor laughs again.

But those family ties ultimately might not matter. Trevor and Heidi won’t influence their son’s decision.

“It’s going to be all him,” Trevor says. “It’s his life and he has to make this decision himself.”

To be a high-profile athlete -- and the son of a high-profile athlete in one’s home state -- is certainly an exciting proposition. But the recruiting process could also be a stress-producer. Certainly added scrutiny comes with high expectations.

Yet the Winter family is nothing if not thankful.

“It’s all a blessing,” Trevor says. “Recruiting is a lot different than it used to be, especially in this world of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and all this other stuff. It can be a blessing and a curse. I mean, Nolan has coaches following him on Twitter and recruiting services following him on Twitter and there are videos out there … it’s stuff that 30 years ago we wouldn’t even have dreamed of.

“It’s a totally different way to be recruited, but all that being said it’s been a blessing.”

Scott Mansch is a Globe part-time sports and feature writer. He appreciates tips and story ideas and can be reached at smansch5rockets@gmail.com

Scott Mansch photo
Scott Mansch

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